Hotel, Motel: Where to Stay?

What it is, Pigeon Handlers?

“Is this another post about food? That’s all it’s been lately.” You ask aloud, having just lost another lunch to Janet from Accounting.

Nay!

That’s right, today we’ll be talking about night-time activities.

“,”

I’ll cut you off right there, and get your mind out of the gutter. We’re talking about sleep! If you are lucky enough to get a full 8 whole hours of sleep, then you should know that in a standard 24 hour day, you aren’t around for a third of it! Math like that is how we get titles such as Mathlete.

The problem that I’m creating for this post is that despite our best efforts, sometimes we can’t always lay ourselves down to sleep in the comfort of our own beds, be they California Kings or Race-cars. This is especially true if you’re traveling. Now, I won’t get into semantics of travel trailers and RVs, and that’s mostly due to my most recent residence in such form of mobile living quarters. I’ll be just fine and dandy if I don’t see the inside of a travel trailer for the next decade. That’s a real goal of mine, and I think I can hit it. I’m trying some way to work 2020 vision in here, because I’m running out of time to do so. Guess I did it. Mission accomplished. Where were we?

“At the end of the post. Janet’s still hungry and I’m running low on hard candies to distract her.”

No we weren’t! We were still close to the beginning, you sly devil. Now, no more interruptions.

So there you are, traveling from Kosciusko to Key West on our good friend I-10 East. 

“Isn’t that a little specific? Not really gonna touch on the traffic that doesn’t take that route.”

I’m sorry. Let me just lie and talk about stuff I have no experience with. What do you think I am, a fiction writer? There’s a method to this madness, muchacho. Today I’m here to discuss just a few hotel options and compare them. These are name brand places, but they are also regional. I can’t compare the Fairfield in Key West to the ROW in NYC…that’s a bad example. I can, but I won’t. That’s another story for another day.

I’m getting really off track here. These are hotels that I’ve stayed at during my relocation process and their scores on the following criteria:

Rate – (Before) and after taxes and fees. I researched the area before making a decision and went with the medium-est priced one. I’ve stayed at cheap hotels and I’ve stayed at not cheap before and tried to stay in the middle of the road for this trip.

Room – Basically cleanliness and comfort. Its really hard to score low, unless raccoons are involved. Does the picture make sense now? Hahaha.

Customer Service – Pretty much based solely on the person working the counter. First impressions.

Extras – Basically WiFi and Breakfast*, though I’ll note if I noticed a gym (mathlete) or used the business services.

*Note on Breakfast. Free breakfast is a plus, but at what cost?

“Um, free?”

Silence! And stay out of my notes!

Anyway, the free breakfasts usually are a you-get-what-you-pay-for kinda thing when it comes to quality, but it’s still free damnit! Thusly, an additional charge for breakfast will result in a subtraction.

Red Roof Inn – Pensacola

Boy howdy do I like driving. So much so, I made the trip from North Kosciusko (Stockdale if you wanna be an ass about it) to the Florida State Line in one shot. After that marathon, I was whipped. Not to far from the border is Pensacola, and more importantly, a cluster of hotels. I’ll fill you inn (get it, hotel pun) on why I chose the Red Roof in another post, for now I’ll talk about the stay. 

The room was decent. Not a five star room, but you aren’t paying five start prices. Comfy Bed? Check. Hot Water? Check. Easy on the budget? Check. But the highest mark on the stay? Customer Service. The gal working the night shift at the RRI should win an award for the Florida Welcome Wagon. Not only was there a literary tour of the town, from Blue Angels to Beaches and both salt and fresh water fishing, but she gave me a discount on the going rate (more on that on a different day).

  • Rate – ($80.54) $89.80
  • Room – B
  • Customer Service – A+
  • Extras – n/a (I was too tired to notice and it was also long ago enough so I don’t remember)

Holiday Inn (Regular, Inn & Suites, and Express) – Tallahassee, Ocala, and Crystal River (respectively)

The IHG family of hotels. Very consistent across the board and the state. Think like the Chili’s of the hotels. Don’t get me wrong about that, I love Chili’s. You know why? You can go to a Chili’s anywhere and there’s very little variation in the menu, service, and food quality. My palette likes Chili’s, but you may not. The key is you really aren’t going to like or dislike one Chili’s over another. This is pretty much true for any big chain, unless we are talking about West Texas. They don’t call it the Wild West for nothin. 

Consistency. All rooms were great and almost identical. Sure, one had a chair while another had a lounger. The point was that as far as the rooms went, the IHG brands were my favorite across the board. Very clean. Very cozy. And again, hot water.

Customer service would have been just an average A, but Tallahassee pushed that to an A+. Very friendly. The others were very polite and professional. 

Extras were the opposite. Again, would have been a solid A, but Ocala brought that one down to a B+. Overall, the amenities were good. There were gyms, there were pools. But during the stay at Ocala, there was trouble with the internet. No, its not a gripey thing like I couldn’t surf the web or social media and sighed like a basic vanilla white dude. I was trying to do some actual work. I use Microsoft OneNote to keep all of my thoughts and ideas together, and with all the traffic at the hotel, I couldn’t get the app to sync. I was also in the process of researching Appartments and making appointments. Unable to do so, I had to buck it down to Starbucks. That, I will take Basic criticism for. Gotta get that Earl Grey fix somehow.

Damper the stay? No. In fact, out of all of the hotels I stayed at, I enjoyed Ocala the best. But if you are traveling for business, that internet issue might aggravate you. 

Tallahassee

  • Rate – ($81.75) $91.97
  • Room – A
  • Customer Service – A+
  • Extras – A (WiFi, don’t remember about breakfast)

Ocala

  • Rate – 1st Stay 2 Nights ($89.30/night) $210.74 total; 2nd Stay 1 Night ($84.55) $93.85
  • Room – A
  • Customer Service A
  • Extras – B
    • Pro: On-site, self serve laundry, business center, gym
    • Con: aforementioned WiFi Issues. Breakfast for an additional charge

Crystal River

  • Rate – ($91.00) $101.01
  • Room – A
  • Customer Service – A
  • Extras – A+ (WiFi, Free Breakfast)

Candlewood Suites – Doral (Miami)

Another member of the IHG Family. The kicker on this bugger? ‘Twas near the airport. Other than that, this was a great stay. The room was very comfy and cozy, with the added benefit of having a full kitchenette and full sized fridge. Also had a very spacious, L-shaped work area. Bathroom was fairly standard.

Customer service was great and price for the room was very good for the amenities. This was likely due to that pesky airport business. How did they make up for it? Two 250 (that’s 500 for those of you counting at home) IHG points coupons. 

  • Rate – ($79.80) $90.18
  • Room – A
  • Customer Service – A+
  • Extras – n/a (don’t member)

Fairfield Inn – Sarasota, Key West

The other team, the Marriott Bonvoy boys. 

The two Fairfields I stayed out were much like the IHG rooms. Very consistent. Rooms were clean and comfy, even in the Key West stay. I had worried that because it was budget priced (compared to window shopping for surrounding day-of stays, more on this in a bit) that the quality would suffer, but the KW version of the Fairfield was just as nice as the Sarasota one. 

The difference was, as expected price. But that’s what I got for that book-the-day-of nonsense. To make up for this, I was walking distance to Key West attractions. Plus, both Fairfield’s offered free breakfast, which was consistent between the two locations. 

As I’m nearing the end of the post, I realize I don’t remember much of things like whether or not the room offered WiFi. Will I take the time to re-edit this post? No. I’ve made it this far into a long article and if your still here…

“Janet’s sleeping and I don’t want to risk waking her so I can go home. I needed a break from catching up on emails anyway, I guess.”

Great!

Sarasota

  • Rate – ($104.00) $116.48
  • Room – B+
  • Customer Service – A (friendly and polite)
  • Extras – A+ (Free Breakfast)

Key West

  • Rate – ($185.00) $236.26
  • Room – B+
  • Customer Service – A (friendly and polite)
  • Extras – A+ (Free Breakfast)

Le Verdict

So, this is what you are here for. If you were travelling across half of the country, where would you stay? I would have to go with the Holiday Inn family. The consistency is key, mostly because the quality is consistently good when it comes to the rooms. Every one of the hotels I stayed at had good customer service, good enough amenities when I needed them or remembered, and they all were around the ball park in price.

Even though the Red Roof Inn and Candlewood Suites were lower priced (by very little), the edge in quality gave it to the Holiday Inns.

On the other side of the fence, the higher price (focusing Sarasota as Key West would skew this equation) and lower room quality conceded again to the winner. 

This isn’t saying that the others were bad, just not as good as Holiday Inn.

Bonus Mention

Hard Rock Casino In Biloxi, Mississippi

Before I made the trip down, I was trying to plan ahead of myself for the Thanksgiving holiday. I didn’t know where I was going to end up on my excursion, but on the chance it was more southern than northern Florida, I booked some rooms at the Hard Rock for a midway point. 

As far as room quality and price went, this was the best bang for the buck. Part of that was booking weeks before hand and middle of the week stays. Quality wise, this was the nicest room by far. 

The extras are the disclaimer. WiFi? Yes. In house restaurant? Hard Rock Café. Entertainment? If that’s what you want to call it.

I’m not going to get involved in any sort of philosophical debate on gambling and I’m not going to cast any stones. You’re an adult and can make your own judgements and should know better than to lay blame if you can’t on a poorly written internet article. 

“Why even bring it up at all?”

Tax purposes. I’m a “travel writer”. 

  • Rate – ($75.00) $97.44
  • Room – A+
  • Customer Service – A+ (You’d be less inclined to give them money in the casino if the staff was a bunch of dickheads)
  • Extras –  n/a 

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